Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Living on the Cheap.
If you know you’re going to need one or more of the following big-ticket items in the next year or so, it may make sense to budget and plan to make all the purchases in one year to make the most of a Costco membership fee, which starts at $60.
If you’re planning any of the following seven purchases in the next year, you may as well consider your membership paid for.
After you cover the membership fee with one or more large purchases, stock up on smaller items such as gift cards and movie passes that you will use this year and the next in order to maximize your savings in the year you purchase a membership.
A friend saved $200 on a computer at Costco, compared with all other options. The same goes for televisions and other electronics. Obviously, you will need to shop around. Costco also extends the manufacturer’s warranty to two years on electronics, TVs and major appliances.
I was able to get my dealer to price-match the lowest price I found at a shop in the suburbs. Still, Costco came in only a few dollars more, so Costco should always be in the mix when you’re shopping for tires. And your savings increase with Costco’s free rotation service.
3. Eyeglasses and contact lenses
The Costco Optical Department is highly rated by Consumer Reports. When I had new glasses made several years ago, I saved $300 compared with other options I researched. When they made a mistake on the lenses (which had to be remade), they gave me a $50 cash card for my trouble. Another friend joined Costco exclusively to save money on contact lenses, and that savings covers her annual fee every year.
4. Carpet and flooring
One Living on the Cheap editor found that Costco’s price to carpet her home was cheaper than anywhere else in town, even before she got an additional Costco rebate based on her top-tier membership. Costco works with local carpet and flooring stores to provide the products and installation.
I searched everywhere for a reasonably priced leather ottoman with storage. All other options were $1,000. Costco’s was $275, including tax and shipping. The first one arrived with the box damaged so I sent it back (they emailed a prepaid label). They sent me another one and gave me a $25 credit for my trouble (I tried for $50).
If you have an anniversary or graduation party coming up, you will find the bulk quantities sold at Costco can be a very good deal when you’re cooking for a crowd, particularly steaks (they sell prime beef that you can’t get at the grocery store) and seafood. Julia Child bought her meat from Costco.
7. Wine and beer
Costco is the largest purveyor of fine wines in the United States. Availability will vary, but you can get some great deals. A friend who is a beer enthusiast tells me the beer prices and selection are excellent also. Again, if you have big party coming up, a big Costco booze purchase may make sense.
Other purchases to make after you’ve recouped the membership fee
- Gas. I don’t use much gas, and driving over to the nearest Costco would erode any savings, but two people I know who fill up weekly say Costco gas is 10 to 20 cents less per gallon and almost always the lowest price around. Non-members can fill up if they use a Costco gift card.
- Gift cards. Every local Costco offers a different mix of discount gift cards for restaurants, usually at least 20% off.
- Movie tickets. If they are available, you can save 20% or more depending on how much movies cost in your area.
- Rotisserie chickens and pizza. I’ve eaten both, and they’re excellent. Both are less expensive than at grocery stores and as good or better.
- Food Court. It’s $1.50 for a decent hot dog and a 20-ounce Pepsi product or $1.99 for a slice of pizza. You can’t beat that for a cheap meal. And you don’t have to be a member to eat at the food court if it is located outside the warehouse.
- Surprises. Costco turns over its entire inventory 12 times per year. Every trip is a treasure hunt for deals. Keep a list of things you need or that will need to be replaced soon and take a spin through the aisles when you’re there. Of course, never buy anything you don’t need regardless of how inexpensive it is.